Like sunflowers? Forsyth County woman’s flower patch provides donations to nonprofit

Justine Lookenott

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Sharon Hendricks and her husband are raising money for a non-profit through their sunflower patch(Image by Justine Lookenott)

(Forsyth County, GA) Nestled off of Jot Em Down Road in Cumming is a 4,000 square foot patch of sunflowers - 8,000 sunflowers to be exact. But the flowers aren’t just there for the beauty they provide to drivers, they are also there for a cause.

Around this time last year, Sharon and Robert Hendricks decided to try their hand at gardening, planting a big bed of wildflowers on the road line of their property. One year later, they were brainstorming what flower they should plant this year when Robert suggested sunflowers.

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8,000 sunflowers are planted in a 4,000 square foot patch along Jot Em Down Road in Cumming(Image by Sharon Hendricks)

Before they knew it, four species of thousands of sunflowers were in bloom, including Teddy Bear, Moonwalker, Evening Sun and Goldener Neger sunflowers.

“As they were growing I said ‘oh my gosh, what are we going to do with all these sunflowers? They’re so beautiful!’” Sharon said.

Then an idea popped into her head, why not use the sunflowers to raise money for a non-profit? Sharon had been a volunteer with the Forsyth County Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer organization for over six years. CASA would be a great non-profit to support through her sunflowers.

Not being sure how well the idea would work, she pitched the idea to her community on her Nextdoor app.

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Sharon Hendricks pitched her idea of raising money through the sunflowers to her community on her Nextdoor app(Image by Justine Lookenott)

Over 150 messages of people expressing their support for the idea was the response. Using a sunflower patch to raise money for CASA volunteers was definitely something that excited the community.

“It's been such a huge hit that I'm going to do it for fall, and next year I'm going to do this [plant sunflowers] and hopefully I'll just be known as 'the lady with the sunflowers,’” Sharon said.

Since her post, many people have stopped by to snap a few pictures of their children in front of the sunflower patch before using the provided scissors to snip some flowers to take home with them. A labeled box is also put out every morning for donations.

Sharon said drivers have shouted their admiration for the sunflowers from the road and even had one lady come and leave a donation who had also been a CASA volunteer herself.

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Sharon Hendricks has raised about $400 for a non-profit through her sunflower patch(Image by Justine Lookenott)

So far she has raised about $400.

There is no exact price for each flower, visitors are just encouraged to give whatever they want to give.

“I’ve had someone give 50 cents, I’ve had someone give $25, it varies and I don't really care because it's such an opportunity!” Sharon said. “...it’s a lot of fun, it’s brought a lot of joy.”

Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) organization

CASA is a non-profit organization that trains and supports volunteers to aid children in the juvenile system. A volunteer herself, Sharon said their job is to “follow up, listen, report to the courts the facts and put the child’s best interest first.”

The ultimate goal is to reunite children with their families.

The volunteers take a huge burden off the system by providing support and specific attention to one family while the state Division of Family & Children Services case managers serve many families at a time.

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An Evening Sun sunflower in the Hendrick's sunflower patch(Image by Sharon Hendricks)

Mental health and substance abuse tend to be huge factors for kids in foster care. Their parents themselves are often victims of abuse and neglect as well and are usually repeating the cycle. CASA volunteers are often the only consistent adult in these children’s lives.

“CASA makes recommendations not only for the children but for the people the children care most about, which is their parents,” Sharon said. “So ultimately, at the end of the day as a CASA volunteer it can be stressful but the end result is amazing because what we truly want is reunification with the parents.”

She plans to use the donations from the sunflowers to help recruit and fund training for new CASA volunteers. It costs about $250 to train a new volunteer and $1,000 to support their work for one year.

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Four different kinds of sunflowers are planted in the sunflower patch(Image by Justine Lookenott)

While the job can be stressful, seeing the kids reunited with their families reminds Sharon of why she loves the position so much. So far every case she has worked on has ended with family reunification, and she still has close relationships with many of the children.

The thousands of sunflowers she and her husband worked hard to plant remind her of the children she has helped over the years.

“They [the sunflowers] all have their unique personality and that's what reminds me of our children, who are all so unique and special, we love them,” Sharon said.

The Hendrick’s home can be found at 8360 Jot Em Down Road in Cumming. Scissors and water are available to cut and take the sunflowers home. Donations can be left in the donation box. The sunflowers are expected to continue to bloom over the next two weeks.

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Visitors can leave donations in the donation box(Image by Justine Lookenott)

Sharon is also trying to raise $10,000 by December 15 for the CASA of Forsyth County’s “Change A Child’s Story” campaign to help train and support CASA volunteers.

Donations can be given to “Change A Child’s Story” by clicking here.

For more information on CASA in Forsyth County, visit forsythcountycasa.org.

If you have a news tip in Forsyth County, contact Justine Lookenott at justine.lookenott@newsbreak.com.

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I cover local news in Forsyth County, GA. My debut into the writing world began at the age of 10 when I won an essay contest in Around Acworth Magazine in which I wrote about spending the summer with my pet goat, Eclair. Since graduating from Kennesaw State University, I have been published in several newspapers and magazines in the Atlanta area including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Atlanta School Guide, What Now Atlanta, Newcomer Magazine, the Marietta Daily Journal and the Cherokee Tribune.

Forsyth County, GA
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